Remember When

By University of Saskatchewan Archives

In 1959, the U of S purchased the Amati Quartet instruments—two violins, a viola and a cello—from Stephen Kolbinson, a farmer from the Kindersley area. Kolbinson sold the rare set of 17th century instruments, crafted by the Amati family of Cremona, Italy, to the university with the understanding that they would be used for the benefit of the people of the province.

Murray Adaskin, a violinist who was composer-in-residence at the university at the time, arranged for the purchase. Shortly after the purchase, the first quartet performance took place during the 1959 Learned Societies conference. Adaskin “had hoped from the beginning that acquisition of these fine instruments would lead to the establishment of a resident string quartet.” After a long search for musicians and funding, the Amati String Quartet made its first public appearance in 1968, and was active until 1971.

Some of the landmark dates of the quartet and its instruments include:


The Amati String Quartet, 1969 (l-r): Murray Adaskin, violin; Norma Lee Bisha, violin; Michael Bowie, viola; Edward Bisha, cello. (Murray Adaskin fonds)

  • Two instruments were used by the Canadian Arts trio (1971- 75). Robert Klose also used the Amati violin in at least 100 performances.
  • A special concert during the university’s 75th anniversary (1984).
  • A second Amati Quartet was active between 1986 and 1990 (including two members from the original quartet); performances included Stephen Kolbinson’s funeral in 1986.
  • The instruments were loaned to the Lafayette String Quartet (1992-98) at the University of Victoria.
  • Starting in 2000, the instruments were used by a variety of musicians and ensembles, including both the Saskatoon Symphony and the Regina Symphony.
  • A new University of Saskatchewan Amati Quartet in Residence was appointed (2003).
  • Quartet’s international debut in Holland during the Amati 500th Festival (2005).
  • Performed for Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and 11,000 spectators at the Lieutenant Governor’s Celebration of the Arts gala held in honor of Saskatchewan’s 100th Anniversary (2005).

The Amati Quartet, 2012 (l-r): Marla Cole, violin; Evan Barber, violin; Geoff Cole, viola; Terry Sturge, cello.